By Martin Stewart | December 5th 2018

You can’t win the moon race with technology from the dark ages.

Does a digital strategy need new technology to succeed, or is it more a matter of changing the way people and processes work?

Well, imagine you’re planning an extreme expedition, someplace where few humans have gone – to the top of Everest, the Marianas Trench, the Moon. You train your body, think through your strategy carefully, and plan for every eventuality. On the day you leave, you lock the door behind you, put on your armour, saddle your horse, and wave goodbye to the cheering crowd. How would you rate your chance of success?

Low, I would think. Being able to reach new and unexplored frontiers depends on having the right gear. You simply can’t win the moon race with technology from the dark ages. Just like you don’t take a knife to a gun fight, an insurance company that relies on old software to implement a new digital strategy is unlikely to walk away the winner.

But, you’d expect a software vendor to say that. Of course we’d want you to have the latest and greatest. How specifically will old technology hamper your digital strategy?

The cornerstone of your digital strategy involves moving 100% of your processes online, allowing staff, customers, intermediaries, brokers and other third parties to have access to relevant and real-time information no matter where they are.

But opening your business to the online world using out of date technology can open up chinks in your armour, leaving you undefended against hacking and DoS attacks. The worry of cyber-attacks is already one of the top concerns of insurance company CEOs – and the majority of their systems are still unconnected.

In a fully digital world the technology you use not only has to be 100% web-based, but it also has to be the most up to date web technology available. The Internet is a dangerous place to be unless you have a fully secure system that is continually updated to the latest technology to protect you from attacks.

Add some lipstick?

Maybe you are thinking you can keep your old technology at the back and write a new web based front end? This will just handicap you:

  • Every change will need to be done in 3 places; the new front end, an interface layer and the back end, and probably by 3 different teams.

  • Response rates will be slower. Every transaction will require activity in both the front end and back end servers and databases as well as the messaging systems in between.

  • There will be design compromises and added complexity. For example, with some data only applicable to the front end, such as the user web location and personal details, it is likely that core data will be stored in 2 different databases, leading to the inevitable challenge of ensuring the two stay synchronised.

Your brand is now defined by the experience you provide.

Opening up your systems means that your technology is now fully on show. No longer is your customers’ only exposure to your brand an attractive brochure website designed by an ad agency.

Older technology that internal users have learned to navigate either through habit or training will not suffice for customers or younger staff members who now expect a great User Experience (UX) as standard. The experience your customers and staff have online now defines the perception of your brand as a whole.

In particular, the speed of response, the ease of navigation, and the way sites handle personal information are critical to an industry like insurance where trust is an imperative.

This means no longer being able to say that a transaction cannot be made until the overnight batch run, or that you will need to confirm the transaction has been processed tomorrow. Users have a reasonable expectation for everything to be instantaneous, because they are already having that experience with other industries, including retail and banking.

If for instance they apply for insurance, they will expect an instant quote and acceptance and the policy document to be issued immediately. When they lodge a claim, they expect a confirmation by text or email immediately and regular updates of the claims progress through their channel of choice.

These factors are key reasons you can no longer choose to underinvest in the underlying platform and network.

Customers won’t put up with the bait and switch

The common approach for companies starting a digital strategy is to start with the adoption of a new digital sales module. In my experience this is just asking for trouble, because the minute your new clients get past the sale they will be hit with the old clunky processes and systems at the back end. With misplaced expectations you are likely to have an unhappy client who’s giving you bad reviews - or worse - another ex-client. This is very much a case of getting your house in order before inviting over visitors. Rather than introduce a glossy new interface ensure your back-end processing is automated and sound, which then allows you to make the entire sales process fully digital.

For the first time there can be a single source of data truth

Going digital with a completely new platform allows you to have all your data and activity happening within a single system. This data can then easily be exported for detailed analysis. Instead of pulling data out of multiple systems, massaging it into a consistent format and then merging it all together you will have all the data already in a single location and in an immediately coherent format because it’s all coming from the same source.

This in turn enables you to drill into the data to find ways to improve. For example, imaging being able to identify specifically which processes are slow, or the point in a process where clients are dropping out – and fix this on the fly.

You can also set up an A/B trial process in production so when you have a potential improvement you can test it out on a subset of your users and compare it to the status quo before rolling it out across the entire system.

Ultimately, your systems and software are very much the foundation of a digital strategy, and to go ‘digital’ you really need to go all in. However, you can still introduce it in phases, as long as you have the right technology to support a gradual roll out. This means the technology you choose for any part of the solution must be able to work in an integrated way across the entire solution. While this may take effort and cost to deliver, in the end you will find your digital strategy is far more effective at winning and retaining clients - which is the key to being more competitive and profitable.

Whether you’re looking for an innovative platform to support business growth, you’re over capacity and need to outsource a project, or you’re in a jam and need a rapid solution, Axe is ready to support you.